Today’s the day. The culmination of months of hard work and endeavour behind the scenes – from first floating the idea of Ardee hosting a stage finish, to making it happen and all the practical preparation that subsequently goes with it – now Ardee can bask it it’s moment in the national and international spotlight.
Formerly known as Ras Tailteann, the race is in it’s 65th year and includes Ardee on it’s route for the very first time. The annual eight day stage race is one of Ireland’s top sporting events, bringing world class sporting action with it across the country.
Saturday will see the remaining riders – 190 started out and 173 remain after Stage 6 – undertake the penultimte stage, stage 7. They will ride from Donegal to Ardee. On Sunday, they will depart Ardee and head for Skerries as the race reaches it’s conclusion.
Traditionally, An Post Ras stage finishes attract big crowds on weekends – so it is a real coup that Ardee hosts it’s event on a Saturday. Race organisers project that up to 10,000 could be in the town to see the riders come in this afternoon.
How will the race affect me?
Traffic restrictions are in place throughout the day in Ardee. From 8am to 5pm (at the earliest), there is no on-street parking on Ardee’s main streets. Side street parking is available. Traffic will be allowed to flow through Ardee until 1pm, when rolling road closures will be in place.
An Post Ras officials will begin installing crowd control barriers and finish line branding along the main street in Ardee at 8am. The race is scheduled to conclude in the town any time between 2.29pm and 4.13pm, estimates suggest. The finish line is at Ardee School of Music on Market Street.
The race will come into Ardee from Carrickmacross on the main N2 roadway. It will make it’s way through the roundabouts at the north side of the town and continue onto the Ardee Link Road. There, it will turn onto Castleguard, Hale Street, Bridge Street and then down the Main Street to the end line at the Ardee School of Music.
On Sunday, Stage 8 (Ardee – Skerries) begins with a ceremonial start from Ardee Parish Centre at 12 midday with Ardee Concert Band providing on street entertainment outside Wheels And Heels Cycle Shop.
Again, traffic restrictions will be in place on Sunday but for a shorter period of time. The race is due in Drumconrath Co Meath at approx 12.40pm when all roads in Ardee will be open and accessible.
An Post Ras – Traffic Restrictions
- Restrictions in place between 8am and 5pm (EST) on Saturday
- No parking on main streets between 8am and 5pm (EST)
- Town open to through traffic until 1pm
- Rolling road closures in place from 1pm
- Traffic restrictions also in place on Sunday approx 12pm – but for a shorter duration
- Off street parking will be available throughout
- Spectators are encouraged to arrive early to view the event
Are there any Ardee or Louth participants in the An Post Ras?
Unfortunatley not. Tomas McCabe of Ardee Cycling Club was part of the original line up of the Louth Cuchulainn Cycling team. Sadly, after picking up an injury last month, Tomas was forced to withdraw from the four-strong squad as the event edged ever closer.
All four Cuchulainn Cycling Team members will be riding into Ardee today. Of the 173 remaining riders, Liam Dolan sits 44th in the general classification with Ray O’Shaughnessy in 88th. Alan Gray and John Fitzpatrickare 159th and 166th respectively.
There is plenty of Irish representation across a host of teams in the Ras. Ireland’s Matthew Teggert won Stage 3 (Newport to Bundoran, 149km) while on Thursday his team mate Regan Gough was the quickest on Stage 5 – Buncrana to Dungloe.
What is the current state of play?
Friday’s stage 6 winner was France’s Yannis Yassad (pictured above) of the France Armée de Terre who completed the 132.1km leg from Dungloe to Donegal in a time of 3hrs 19mins and 21secs. From a group of 30 riders out in front, he won the sprint while the rest of the field stretched very far back the road.
At 132km, Friday’s stage was by far the shortest of the stages so far. It is a full 35km shorter than the Donegal to Ardee route undertaken by all of the cycists today (167km) but Sunday’s stage eight route is shorter – at just 129km.
In terms of the overall leaderboard, Britain’s James Gullen holds the yellow jersey as Saturday’s race gets underway this morning. Gullen won a stage in the Ras in 2016 and this year has his eyes on the ultimate prize. He holds a 1min and 05 secs lead over his nearest challenger Dutchman Ike Groen of Delta Cycling.
Damien Shaw is the best-placed Irish rider on General Classification,but he is a long off the yellow jersey at 4’32” seconds down. Daire Feeley (iTap) is the best-placed county rider and Michael O’Loughlin is the best U23 rider.
Kasperkiewicz Przemyslaw of An Post Chain Reaction is the leader of the mountains classification while the Netherlands Dennis Bakker leads the Points Classification.
Where can I follow the An Post Ras in Ardee?
The best place to follow the event is in the town itself. Thousands are expected to take to the streets of the town to welcome the riders across the line. You can be among them. Gardai are advising spectators to get to the finish line early to ensure you get a good vantage point. Remember, there’s side-street parking only in Ardee Town on Saturday.
If you can’t make the event, follow it with us on ThisIsArdee.ie. We’ll have live social media coverage on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook throughout the day and a full report, reaction and photo gallery to follow. Plus, we’ll be at the start line on Sunday as the riders embark on the last leg of their journey.